Over the past few months there has been some controversy regarding speculation that the next major iPhone would ditch the conventional 3.5 mm headphone jack, and rely solely on its lightning connector and or bluetooth to play audio through headphones. This raised some controversy because the 3.5mm jack has been a staple of modern portable devices for nearly 40 years. The 3.5 mm jack has been a reliable and abundant port found on virtually every major electronic device. The standard is used by millions of people on a daily basis for both communication and entertainment purposes.
That is changing, and it is a good thing. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones can be reliably used without relying on a constant AC power source or a physical connection to the internet via LAN cables. Why shouldn’t our headphones be able to do the same?
Bluetooth headphones have been around for several years, with many newer models even offering the option of both wireless and wired usage modes. Furthermore, they are not that much more expensive than their wired counterparts.
By The Numbers
In fact, according to Ben Arnold of The NPD Group, sales of Bluetooth headphones in the United States accounted for 40% of all headphones sales last year – a 15% rise over the previous year. This is due likely to the fact that they have gotten cheaper and more versatile, furthermore battery life has gotten better across the board. In addition to this, bluetooth headphones are available in a wide variety of styles capable of accommodating any number of usage scenarios.
With figures like that, it’s easy to understand why some companies might opt to forgo including the jack in their smartphones in the first place. In fact, Intel recently advocated for companies to start switching over to the USB C standard to provide wired audio connectivity. Personally, I don’t see this taking off unless all smartphones start adopting the standard. So far, one Chinese manufacturer has opted to ditch the 3.5 mm jack in favor of a single USB-C port that will also output digital audio on their newest smartphones. To be fair, those smartphones will likely see a very limited release outside of Asia.
As for Audiophiles? Many will argue that wired offers superior quality over Bluetooth any day of the week.
Audiophile and industry veteran Adam Sohmer says “Personally, I notice a difference when the headphones cost over $200 (comparing bluetooth to wired headphones) but ultimately hard wired headphones just offer more in terms of quality.”
According to audiophile and industry veteran Ken Furst “Look if they are happy with the shit buds came with their phone a set of bluetooth (headphones) may be a big step up. If they have never listened to better phones that should be the first step.”
So in short : don’t fret over the lack of a 3.5 mm ports in next year’s flagship phones. Odds are manufacturers will use the room saved to expand the size of the battery. Regardless, the reduced footprint should result in better smartphones. In some cases smartphones will actually be slimmer. It’s not likely that such a port will disappear from laptops and tablets anytime soon – so don’t worry about that.
So what can one do to be ready for our wireless / wired USB-C audio future? If your current headphones leave your ears satisfied and are in proper working order, do nothing – for now. If you are in the market for new headphones, start checking out bluetooth wireless headphones. If you can’t find something you like at a price point you can afford, step back into your time machine and return to 2016, thank you very much.
About Benny Sabghir: Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Benny enjoys all aspects of consumer electronics - especially writing about it. He also enjoys hitting the gym, running and discussing the history of his three favorite wars - The American Revolution, The Six-Day War, and the Star Wars Trilogy. Currently in Jerusalem, Israel. Follow him on twitter @Sabghir_Benny Find him on Google+ View author profile.